Tragedy for wildlife in Ohio should be seen as a seismic legislative opportunity

c. Associated Press By now, most of us have heard the news coming out of Zanesville, Ohio, where the owner of an animal preserve set free dozens of exotic animals--including cheetahs, wolves, bears, lions, and tigers -- before taking his own life. In the wake of this tragedy, there is certain to be outrage, concern and questions--with the most important question in my opinion being: Why should anyone, let alone a convicted felon with a history of animal abuse, be allowed to keep wild animals in captivity?

Instead of attempting to place blame, we must all agree that more stringent legislation is needed to ensure the safety of the public and the animals. Ohio is one of nearly a dozen states that currently has no regulation to prevent the private ownership of dangerous exotic wildlife. In Ohio, individuals can purchase tigers, cheetahs, chimps, and countless other species from private breeders and auctions.

These animals often end up spending their life in backyard cages, where they suffer in deplorable conditions and struggle to survive. Certain pieces of legislation discourage this type of private ownership. The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, a law which makes is illegal to ship large, dangerous cats (tigers, lions, leopards, etc.) across state lines, was signed into effect on September 17, 2007.

In Ohio, an executive order issued last year by then Gov.Ted Strickland prohibited people convicted of animal cruelty from owning exotic pets, and banned private citizens from acquiring certain dangerous wild animals. However, this emergency order expired in April and has yet to be renewed. Many questions still remain to be answered in the coming days.

However there is one thing we already know for sure: these wild animals should never be privately owned as pets. When they are, the animals (and their owners) always suffer, and the results are often tragic. All of the staff here at the International Fund for Animal Welfare deeply regret the death of these innocent animals but understands that public safety is the first priority in this time of crisis.

Even if rescued, the future of these animals is bleak. Reputable animal sanctuaries are increasingly hard to find, and all are already bursting at the seams with unwanted animals. IFAW, along with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries has already helped re-home more than 350 animals from a bankrupt sanctuary over the last 12 months, and there are more sanctuaries facing economic downfall in the present recession.

The captive wildlife crisis in Ohio is a tragedy for both the animals and the community in Zanesville, and our hearts go out to everyone dealing with this emergency.

-- AD 

Comments: 5

6 years ago

the blurb by Azzedine Downes is very
rdiaappointing-this is not just about legislation but about a mindless and out of control sheriff
who panicked-this sheriff should have had or at least accrss to stun guns
this sheriff murdered these animals-the mayor and sheriff of Zanesville were actually a public threat

further I am disappointed that IFAW did not condem the actions of these panicked and dangerous "Officials". Will reconsider future IFAW contributions

6 years ago

Jacqueline, tranquilization is not as simple as it looks on television. It is never immediately effective and often doesn't work at all, only causing the target to become injured or aggressive. When dangerous animals are on the loose, human lives will always take precedence over animal lives. It's a sad but true fact of wild animals trapped in a human environment. Of course nobody in this situation wanted ANY lives, human or non-human, to be lost, but when it comes down to it, human life is always the priority, even when dealing with precious endangered species who end up in a dangerous situation through no fault of their own.

6 years ago

I don't understand why they had to kill these innocent and precious creatures and not just tranquilize them.

6 years ago

Please contact Ohio Gov. Kasich and express your distain for his lack of leadership in allowing the hoarding of, and eventual death, of 48-51 exotic animals. Every voice must be not allow the deaths of these helpless animals to be in vain.

Governor of Ohio, John R. Kasich > Home

6 years ago

The killing of so many wild animals! What a load of crap this all is. I find it hard to believe that so many of the animals needed to be killed. They said that they didn't have police (sheriff's dept) officers trained to use tranquilizers. you can shoot a gun! We know that!!!!!!! What about the freaking DNR?? No just a bunch of trigger happy cops! Bet they even enjoyed it! got to play mighty big game hunters! Oh, and nobody care's what that sellout Hanna has to say either! And you have to nerve to wonder why people more then ever hate cops! I have read more about more cops shooting peoples pets in the last 6 months then every before all over the country! This has pissed me off like nothing in a long time! all these animals killed because of a stupid person ..and a stupid law! allowing it! Nobody should have wild animals ..... Idiots, all involved in this slaughter!

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime